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North Russian Expeditionary Force

 
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Percy Toplis



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BerichtGeplaatst: 14 Feb 2010 16:57    Onderwerp: North Russian Expeditionary Force Reageer met quote

Kalamazoo soldier featured in film on heroic WWI unit

By Linda S. Mah, Kalamazoo Gazette, 30 January 2010

KALAMAZOO — At the end of World War I a group of American soldiers was sent to Russia to battle Bolshevik troops — in an operation that lasted for months after the war ended.

The documentary “Voices of a Never Ending Dawn” explores the trials and heroics of those soldiers — most of whom were from Michigan.

The movie includes an extended section featuring the diary of John Toornman, of Kalamazoo. Toornman died in 1986 at age 92, but his son Eugene Toornman lives in Portage.

“He talked about the war when he got up into his 80s and 90s, but not that much before,” Toornman said. “Once some of us kids went into the service, he warned us, ‘You’re happy now that you’re going, but you’re going to be twice as happy when you get out.’”

John Toornman was one of the U.S. Army’s 5,000 troops in the North Russian Expeditionary Force that was sent to Arkhangelsk, Russia, by President Woodrow Wilson in September 1918.

Most of the members of the force were from Michigan and trained at Battle Creek’s Fort Custer. About 70 of them were from Kalamazoo.

The soldiers were specifically selected for service in northern Russia because of their familiarity with harsh winters. They eventually began calling themselves the “Polar Bears” after their tour in Siberia.

Wilson, responding to a plea from Great Britain and France, agreed to send troops to Siberia to protect Allied supplies in the area, to aid the Czech Legion and to provide a foundation to stop the Bolsheviks and the spread of communism.

Once in Russia, the men faced extreme cold and near starvation, all while fighting an ill-defined enemy, Toornman said.

Even after the Armistice was declared on Nov. 11, 1918, the NREF continued fighting. Toornman said his father told him they did not hear about the end of the war until Christmas of that year — and the U.S. government did not pull the troops out until May 1919.

About 100 soldiers died in battle; another 70 died from disease, mostly the Spanish flu;, and another 30 went missing. Fifty-six of the dead were eventually reburied in plots surrounding the Polar Bear Monument in White Chapel Memorial Park in Troy.

“Voices” originally premiered on Memorial Day 2009 by the monument. Since then, it has been airing throughout Michigan.

It was produced, directed and written by Detroit native Pamela Peak. Peak, who now lives in California, is the granddaughter of a Polar Bear, Guy Campus, and her grandfather’s experiences inspired the movie.

“The soldiers themselves make the story great,” Peak said. “It’s the politics that were absolutely horrible.”

The documentary uses historical photos, dramatic readings of soldiers’ diaries and re-creation of Russian battles.

“They were intelligent and physically strong and had a ton of integrity,” Peak said of the Michigan soldiers. “They ended up being one of the most heroic and decorated units in all of WWI.”

Toornman’s story, told via his diary and his son’s comments, is featured in the middle of the film. Toornman’s story recounts losing two of his Kalamazoo friends, Clarance Malm and Jay Pitts, in a snowy trench battle in Pinega, Russia.

“It was a very emotional part of the film,” Peak said. “His was such a sensitive heart. He epitomized what all our young men and women must feel like on their first day of battle and when they lose a buddy.”

Peak filmed the documentary in January 2009 near Traverse City in 7-degree-below-zero temperatures during a four-day blizzard. Even those harsh conditions were nothing, though, compared to what the Polar Bears faced in Siberia, with its 60-degree-below-zero temperatures.

Peak said Jay Earle Spaulding, another Kalamazoo resident who fought with the Polar Bears, told his family about building fortified log cabins in subzero weather and then turning around and fighting the attacking enemy.

His father saw friends from Kalamazoo killed next to him in the trenches, and he described having the blood of his friends splattered on his head, he said.

Years later, Toornman said, “most of them could never figure out why they’d been sent there.”

Contact Linda S. Mah at lmah@kalamazoogazette.com or (269) 388-8546. Gazette News Service reporter Rachael Recker also contributed to this report.

http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2010/01/kalamazoo_soldier_featured_in.html
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Percy Toplis



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BerichtGeplaatst: 14 Feb 2010 17:00    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Documentary on Michigan soldiers who fought Bolsheviks after World War I to air Sunday in Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS -- Zeeland resident Bruce Bartels remembers his grandfather Levi Bartels as "Pappy," an Olive Township native who tended a 40-acre farm and was a good fishing partner.

"You rarely saw him smile, but he could, especially if he knew a camera was around," 66-year-old Bartels said, chuckling.

After Sunday, Bartels hopes West Michigan will know his grandfather and his fellow Michigan comrades for what Bartels became aware of only later in life -- Levi was one of 5,500 mostly Michigan World War I soldiers who were trained briefly at Battle Creek's Camp Custer (a.k.a. Fort Custer) and sent to northern Russia to fight the Bolsheviks.

Made Michigan-tough, the soldiers were specifically selected for Russia because of their familiarity with harsh winters and could thus endure the 60-degree-below-zero temperatures. Because of their resilience, the soldiers eventually dubbed themselves "The Polar Bears."

"Voices of A Never Ending Dawn," a two-hour documentary highlighting the Polar Bears and the harsh conditions under which they fought, will makes its West Michigan debut at 10 p.m. Sunday on WGVU-TV (Channel 35).

"Voices" originally premiered on Memorial Day in 2009 at the White Chapel Memorial Park in Troy by the Polar Bear Monument. Since then, it has been airing throughout Michigan.

Produced, directed and written by Detroit native Pamela Peak of Orange County-based Pamela Peak Productions, the film recounts the overlooked WWI experience through the lives of many West Michigan and Detroit-area Polar Bears via their diaries and photos.

With little training, the forgotten soldiers found themselves in horrible weather conditions fighting under British command eight months after the war ended.

Levi, who passed at age 94 in the early '80s, is featured three times in the film via his diary entries and two photos.

Levi's story focuses on his hatred of the British, who, according to many soldiers' diary accounts, treated their American recruits poorly, stealing their American boots, supplanting them with inferior, leather-soled British "Shackleton Boots," and failing to supply them with adequate winter gear.

"His statement is that, 'If there was ever a war declared against England, I'll be the first to sign up,'" Bartels recalled. "Everybody kind of laughs at that, but that's just his feelings. He was a very set-in-his-way person."

A picture of August Postmus, another Polar Bear and a Grand Rapids native, is shown at the end of the film.

Ellsworth, Mich., resident Natalie Postmus, the wife of August's son Myron (known as Mike), recalled talking a little bit about the experience with August.

"I remember asking him, 'Did you fight during the day of armistice?' He said 'No, not that day,' but the next day they did. I think most of the fighting was keeping themselves alive," Natalie, 82, said.

Grand Rapids resident Tom Westerhof said his great uncle, John Westerhof, was a Polar Bear and Grand Rapids resident who had immigrated from the Netherlands and was among the 100 Polar Bears to die of the flu en route or shortly after arriving in Russia.

Peak talks generally about the death of the soldiers to flu during part of the documentary.

"They weren't given any of the facilities that the British were given and our men suffered for it," Tom said. "It's an interesting old story."

The story of Kalamazoo Polar Bear and painter John Toornman, told via his son and Portage resident Eugene Toornman and John's diary entries, is featured in the middle of the film. Toornman's story recounts losing two of his Kalamazoo friends, Clarance Malm and Jay Pitts, in a snowy trench battle in Pinega, Russia.

"It was a very emotional part of the film," Peak said. "His was such a sensitive heart. He epitomized what all our young men and women must feel like on their first day of battle and when they lose a buddy."

Peak, whose grandpa Guy Campus was a Polar Bear, is planning on writing a script for a future motion picture. She's currently writing a screenplay for her award-winning PBS documentary, "Colorblind."

Peak shot all the outdoor reenactments in northern Michigan in five days during a blizzard in January 2009, including scenes at the Troy Historical Museum, using about 40 Michigan actors.

"I knew the on-camera actors and the re-enactors, they'd better be from Michigan, because I didn't think our California actors could withstand (the cold)," Peak said.

"They were intelligent and physically strong and had a ton of integrity," Peak said of the Michigan soldiers.
"They ended up being one of the most heroic and decorated units in all of WWI."

Of the 5,5000 soldiers, 100 died of the flu, 500 were injured severely and 340 died. The last Polar Bear died at age 102 in 2002.

"I wanted the film to take the viewers on the journey to Russia with the guys and experience what it was like coming out of it when they finally get to come home and then know about how they loved each other till the end of their lives.

"It ends with a very tearful ending -- how they grow older and kept reuniting."

E-mail Rachael Recker: rrecker@grpress.com

http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2010/01/documentary_on_michigan_soldie.html
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Percy Toplis



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BerichtGeplaatst: 14 Feb 2010 17:03    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Les de verhalen, bestel de DVD...

http://polarbeardocumentary.com/
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Patrick Mestdag
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BerichtGeplaatst: 14 Feb 2010 18:16    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

zie ook forumtopics
http://www.forumeerstewereldoorlog.nl/viewtopic.php?p=76749
http://www.forumeerstewereldoorlog.nl/viewtopic.php?p=235271#235271
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Oublier c'est trahir ! marechal Foch
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marty



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BerichtGeplaatst: 14 Feb 2010 18:22    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

niet direkt topic maar even wat zij-info,

http://www.michigansmilitarymuseum.com/polarbearstour.html

dit museum bevindt zick te Frankenmuth, MI, ongeveer 180 km NO
van Kalamazoo, Ft. Custer is nu een groot State Parking/recreation area.
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Percy Toplis



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BerichtGeplaatst: 08 Apr 2010 22:54    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

WWI film being shot in Charlevoix County

" It's when I started reading the diaries of the young men, their voices came alive to me. A young man's story of being shipped out to a foreign arctic place experiencing war for the first time, " said Film Director Pamela Peak.

The film titled "Voices of a Never Ending Dawn" is a re-enactment of battle scenes from World War One.

" It's historical for one, and true life is the other factor," said Actor Alex Alexandrou.

Director Pamela Peak, whose grandfather also fought in the war, says the film centers around a group of soldiers called the Polar Bears.

"A good number were farm guys from Ellsworth, Petoskey, Cross Village, and Charlevoix. These guys thought they were all going to France. They were sent to northern Russia," Peak said.

Some of the film was shot downstate, and the final battle scene is being recreated near East Jordan. Due to the extreme winter conditions Peak says the Polar Bears became iced in, and she says forgotten.

"Imagine if there was a world war and your son was left for eight months and you didn’t know if he was alive or dead," Peak said.

Peak says she hopes the film serves as a reminder of the thousands of Michigan soldiers who fought for their country.

"The soldiers will be remembered. Even though it's a past war and not many people know about it, it is something people will remember," Alexandrou said.

"A positive story in favor of our veterans because all these guys remain loyal, but it also shows true horrors of war and maybe speak to the hearts of all Americans," said Peak.

The director of the film is hoping to wrap up shooting in East Jordan this weekend. The film makes its debut on Memorial Day.

http://www.upnorthlive.com/news/story.aspx?id=247793
By Courtney Rehmer, Friday, January 16, 2009
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BerichtGeplaatst: 08 Jun 2010 7:44    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Story of state's 'Polar Bears' airs on PBS
By George Jaksa, June 06, 2010

FLINT — He was the raspy-voiced sergeant who couldn’t stand to watch his men fight without proper clothes, the right weapons or a clear mission in freezing arctic Russia.

And when Silver K. Parrish returned home to Michigan, he never spoke again of the seemingly forgotten chapter after World War I: the weeping women who begged him not to burn their village; the bitter, 60-below temperatures; and his fellow soldiers known as the Polar Bears.

Now the story of those eight long months, when 5,500 American troops were left to fight the first communists in brutal conditions under British command, after the war had ended and everyone else had been called home, has been told in his own words in Flint.

Parrish’s diary was among dozens featured in a PBS film, “Voices of a Never Ending Dawn,” which aired recently. And a handful of local Polar Bear descendants had a special interest, including Parrish’s nephew in Flushing Township, who is interviewed in the film.

“It shouldn’t have happened,” said Tom Parrish, 88, flipping through a copy of his late uncle’s handwritten 1918 account that was spread out on his dining room table. “The armistice had been signed, and here were American soldiers fighting something they didn’t want to fight in Russia under British command.

“It’s a tragedy, but people should know that it happened. It’s history and it deserves recognition and respect.”

His uncle was part of one of the most highly decorated regiments, which President Woodrow Wilson sent to north Russia in 1918 to fight the Bolsheviks — the first communists — in hopes that Russia would be persuaded to rejoin the war against Germany.

They had expected to go home when WWI ended, but instead were left to brave a savage enemy the rest of the world hardly knew about. They fought in arctic snows for at least eight more months, earning them their nickname.

The then-20-something Silver Parrish, a prominent character in the film, was so distraught by what was happening he threatened a revolt.

“Today I wrote up a resolution demanding to know why we are still in Russia and why we don’t have enough to eat and why the British command us and why we don’t have the big guns,” he wrote in his diary, the original of which is stored at Michigan’s Own Military and Space Museum in Frankenmuth and which is quoted in the film.

“ ... I, Silver K. Parrish, was called before the colonel and threatened with a court-martial, which carries the penalty of death.”

“He had a deep sense of fairness, and he was always for the underdog. He wasn’t afraid of anybody,” Tom Parrish said of his uncle, who later became a strong union supporter in Detroit.

Award-winning filmmaker Pamela Peak, a Detroit-area native who now lives in California, based her film on diaries of several Polar Bears, 90 percent of whom were from Michigan and who included her grandfather.

“These guys were stuck in Russia doing the impossible and fighting for their lives in 60-below-zero weather,” Peak said. “They didn’t know why they were there. This story has to be told.”

The film also told the story of the company of men who fought along the railroad front, sleeping in railway cars when they weren’t in deep woods to find and fight the Bolsheviks.

Many froze to death. Others, such as the uncle of Grand Blanc resident Rae Marie Brian, died of pneumonia just a few days before all the troops were to come home in the summer of 1919.

Brian could not be reached for comment.

Out of the regiment, 245 men were killed, 305 were wounded and 80 died of Spanish Influenza.

“It was a footnote in history because when they talk about World War I, no one even mentions arctic Russia,” said Stan Bozich, who runs the military and space museum in Frankenmuth with wife Lou and who displays the largest Polar Bear collection in the country.

“A lot of Polar Bear boys felt like they were sent to the sideshow. They were frozen and couldn’t get out. People don’t realize that Michigan troops were the first to fight the communists. It’s history that is very little known.”

http://www.mlive.com/davison/index.ssf/2010/06/story_of_states_polar_bears_ai.html
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BerichtGeplaatst: 18 Jul 2010 15:09    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

http://www.kingscollections.org/servingsoldier/index.php?id=701
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Percy Toplis



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BerichtGeplaatst: 28 Nov 2010 19:29    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Descendants of ‘cold war’ fighters during WWI attend movie screening
By MARK MORRIS, The Kansas City Star

An emotional documentary depicting one of the oddest episodes in U.S. military history elicited tears Saturday from a packed house at the National World War I Museum.

“Voices of a Never Ending Dawn” told the story of the Polar Bears, 5,500 American soldiers who fought Bolsheviks in northern Russia during the waning days of World War I. But the movie by California filmmaker Pamela Peak also played to an audience that has lived with the tale since they were very young.

About 20 descendants of those soldiers attended the screening and attested that their fathers and grandfathers fought a “cold war” against communism decades before that phrase became the metaphor for a global superpower standoff.

Roy Smith of Florida said his father began suffering from post-traumatic syndrome in the late 1930s, 20 years after he returned from Russia.

Witnessing the carnage, compounded by a brutal Russian winter, contributed to his father’s breakdown, Smith said.

“The Bolsheviks kept coming and they were just mowing them down,” Smith said.

In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson sent the soldiers to northern Russia to fight the Bolsheviks, who had pulled the czar’s forces out of World War I as they consolidated their hold on Russia. The British, who had urged U.S. participation in the Russian campaign, had hoped to crush communism at its inception.

Through a brutal winter, undertrained and ill-equipped American soldiers supported czarist forces and valiantly fought to hold a large area around the Russian city of Arkhangelsk. The enemy, on the other hand, knew the terrain, had some popular support and only grew stronger as each month passed.

“It’s a shameful bit of our history,” said Gene Toornman of Michigan, whose father did not begin speaking of the war until he was in his 70s. “But every Russian kid knows it. They’ve taught it in school.”

Murrill Colburn, who served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II, remembers his father showing him a wicker basket full of memorabilia he brought back from Russia. Colburn, of Michigan, said his father wouldn’t discuss one item — a hat with a bullet hole square in the forehead. He did, however, show his son a rifle bullet that had been headed for his chest but deflected off the metal tripod supporting the machine gun he was firing during battle.

Colburn’s father also left a tangible legacy of selfless service in his daughter, Sandie Duiker, who recently retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Army and National Guard. She served six tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan as an air evacuation nurse.

“It was a fact of life,” said Duiker, of Texas. “You went to the military and served your country.”

Even the armistice signed in November 1918 didn’t bring the Polar Bears home. With ports frozen in northern Russia, the troops had no opportunity to return until the following spring, and the fighting intensified.

Public pressure from family and friends of the soldiers finally forced the government to extract the troops. While the public greeted the soldiers warmly when they returned in July 1919, the rest of the country seemed content to let the North Russian Expedition Force pass into obscurity.

Michael Grobbel, who runs the Polar Bear Memorial Association, said that was not surprising.

“Typically, history is written by the winners, and we weren’t the winners,” said Grobbel, of Michigan. “Everybody kind of wanted to forget it.”

http://www.kansascity.com/2010/11/27/2476589/descendants-of-cold-war-fighters.html

Foto's: http://www.kansascity.com/2010/11/27/2475727/polar-bear-unit-documentary-at.html
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BerichtGeplaatst: 28 Nov 2010 19:30    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

A piece of U.S. history comes in from the cold
By JAMES A. FUSSELL, The Kansas City Star

True or false: America once invaded Russia.

Nice try. The answer is true.

Although few people know it, in 1918 President Woodrow Wilson sent 5,500 American soldiers — including some from Missouri and Kansas — to northern Russia in the last days of World War I. Thanks to harsh conditions that cut off communications, the troops were left there for eight months after the war ended.

With dwindling supplies and no word from home, many wondered if their country had forgotten them.

Wrote one soldier in his diary:

“Week follows week and November goes by and December. No word comes from the War Department. No word comes and the soldier is left to think that he has been abandoned and left to rot on the barren snow wastes of arctic Russia.”

But more than 90 years later these soldiers, known as the Polar Bears, have not been forgotten. California filmmaker Pamela Peak saw to that with her 2009 documentary “Voices of a Never Ending Dawn.” Today, 20 descendants of the Polar Bears will join Peak for a free public screening of the Emmy-nominated film at the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial.

Some plan to bring historic artifacts and photos, which will then be displayed at the museum. Visitors also can learn more by visiting the museum’s display on the Polar Bears, officially known as the American North Russian Expeditionary Force.

“It’s perfect (to have a screening at the World War I Museum) because these guys never felt like they were a part of World War I,” Peak said. “But they were.”

She should know. Her grandfather, Guy Campus, was there. He told stories of brave men fighting in waist-deep snow in temperatures that plunged to 60 below zero. The men’s stories, many recorded in diaries, are all that’s left. The last Polar Bear, Harold Gunnes, died in 2002 at 102.

Their ordeal started after the U.S. Army’s 85th Division arrived in Liverpool, England. Some regiments went to France while others, mostly from Michigan, boarded ships bound for the Arctic Circle.

“President Woodrow Wilson was pressured by the British to send American soldiers to Russia to fight a new force called the Bolsheviks, an early name for Communists,” Peak said. “Winston Churchill (then Britain’s secretary of war) saw that the Bolsheviks were pulling the czar’s forces — our allies — out of the war as they were taking over Russia. So Churchill got this bright idea that if we could amass forces in northern Russia, we could stop communism at its birth.”

The Brits assured a conflicted Wilson that the American soldiers were needed only to guard supplies. When the men arrived, they discovered the Bolsheviks had stolen all the supplies. With nothing to guard, the men were put under British control and sent to fight in bone-chilling cold.

Even their voyage to Russia proved difficult, Peak said. A couple of dozen died of influenza on the way.

“There was a horrible lack of medical supplies on the British-packed ship,” Peak said. “The Americans went looking for medical supplies, but all they could find was case after case of British rum.”

The American soldiers, along with 3,500 men from allied countries, made their base in Arkhangelsk, Russia, 600 miles north of Moscow. They survived by building block houses with small slots for their rifles. Some soldiers who spent nights outside on watch died of exposure.

Although the war ended 60 days after the soldiers arrived, none of them knew it.

“This was two years before the first radio station,” Peak said. “Once the seas froze over in late October or early November of 1918, there was no communication getting in or out, and these guys were totally cut off.”

As a result, the soldiers remained in Russia. Back home, their families grew frustrated. As other men returned home from the war, the Polar Bears’ families couldn’t get information about their sons.

“They were the first American citizens ever to patriotically petition their own government to bring their sons home,” Peak said. “They actually changed foreign policy because they finally brought their sons home in late June and early July of 1919.”

The soldiers became one of the most decorated units in World War I, Peak said, although the story of their service was largely swept away by the politics of the Cold War. The story was so hidden, Peak said, even former presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan didn’t know it had happened. However, Peak said, schoolchildren in Russia were taught that America invaded Russia.

Mike Grobbel of Shelby Township, Mich., is one of the descendants coming to Kansas City this weekend. The military awarded his grandfather Clement Grobbel the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military honor for extreme gallantry and risk of life in combat. Grobbel, who runs a Polar Bear Memorial Association website, is bringing a trench shovel that was buried for 90 years and found in 2008.

Peak got a good portion of the $200,000 she needed for her “budget film” from her cousin, Sgt. Major Larry S. Chase, who lives in Troy, Mich., home of the official Polar Bear monument and memorial. She raised the rest by speaking to veterans groups. The film is told largely with words from the soldiers’ diaries. It began airing on public television stations last Memorial Day.

“This is not a dry war documentary,” Peak said. “I wanted people to see the human side.”

http://www.kansascity.com/2010/11/26/2474436/a-piece-of-us-history-comes-in.html
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